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Financial and academic constraints cause worry for nursing students

Current financial and academic constraints are worries for nursing students in a already health-constrained society. Photographer - Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Current financial and academic constraints are worries for nursing students in a already health-constrained society. Photographer - Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Sep 4, 2021

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Cape Town - While clinical learning remains an important component of nursing school, nursing students are concerned about the additional financial and academic pressures in an already health-constrained environment.

In a recent petition, nursing students expressed that not only has the 12-hour work schedule impacted the shift into the remote learning period, but the additional concerns about the virus and financial difficulties have had a strain on the students' ability to push through.

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Despite the vaccine, and the nature of the work, the nursing students feel that there is a lot to take in when considering their health and shift to remote learning.

Nursing student Parfait Munyemana said: “As a nursing student, I understand the nature of work requires practical experience, but at times, I question myself a lot about my wellbeing these days, given the fact that we are sometimes thrown into the riskiest wards without any medical aid to cover our back in case something had to happen to us. Apart from that, we have to deal with getting our own uniforms, transport to the facilities, data, school fees, all these things piles up on us.

“Additionally, studying online has also alleviated the challenges, and that, in my opinion, is being overlooked as well. Due to everything online, our practical form of learning has also been affected, and that adds to the strain,” Munyemana said.

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“I feel like a stipend will not only assist with the many difficulties nursing students face, but it will also show that we are part of the system and we are not being thrown into the deep end without a safety net during the pandemic,” said the student.

Provincial secretary for the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) Fanny Ferris said that given the hours that students work for and the environment, nursing students need all the support they can get.

“With a shortage of staff in health facilities, students are dependent on the capacity of staff to complete their practicals. However, considering the fact that bursaries do not always provide the uniform that is expected of students to wear for their clinical hours, transport, provision of lunch etc we, as the student movement, are of the view that nursing students should receive a monthly stipend as labour without compensation is exploitation.”

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Spokesperson for the provincial Health Department Mark van der Heever said that nursing students should understand the nature of the job when signing up for the programme.

“Nursing students are health professional students, and like other health professional students, do not receive stipends. The hours that they work on the clinical platform are part of the training requirements. Unfortunately, nursing students will be treated as all other students on the health service platform.”

Despite the department not budging, Ferris feels that nursing institutions should be more accommodating of students during these times.

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“In regards to the pandemic, we would like nursing institutions to accommodate students in regards to examination entry, dependent on clinical components as factors like screening, illness, transportation affects attendance of students and should not be punished by extending the academic year as students are not responsible for the pandemic.”

“We encourage health facilities and nursing institutions to provide counselling services for students as mental health and wellbeing is important, and we ask students to be rather aware and caution students of exploitation,” said Ferris.

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